LibriVox recording of Henry Ford's Own Story, by Rose Wilder Lane. Read by Lee Ann Howlett.
Rose Wilder Lane was a newspaper reporter, free-lance writer, political activist, and the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House" series of popular children's books. In this biography of Henry Ford, Ms. Lane worked directly with Ford to tell his story from his birth to his founding of the Ford Motor Company and his use of modern assembly lines to mass produce his cars.
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June 24, 2010 Subject:
Rose Wilder Lane was the daughter of Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House series. In 1915 Rose was 29 years old and working for the San Francisco Chronicle when she gave a series of informal interviews with Henry Ford. These articles became the basis for a book-length biography called Henry Ford's Own Story, published in 1917.
Rose's 1915 biography was only the second about Ford ever published at that point, yet it was still early in his career, he would live another 30 years yet. It's unfortunately a mythologizing account with factual inaccuracies, Ford himself was unhappy with it. The personal details of Ford, his machines and history become secondary to Rose's fictionalization for the sake of story. She did the same thing in biographies of Charlie Chaplin and Jack London (who were also unhappy with her treatments). In her stories, the same simple heroic romance is retold of life as a successful struggle against adversity and its inevitable reward. It makes for good literary fiction of the Dicken's fated universe type - the good guys win and the bad guys get their due - but as biographies of well known and famous living people, they were a mixed blessing, a astute reader could see there must be more to the story left unsaid.
There have been many biographies of Ford, some of them pretty good. While this one is enjoyable enough, I can't really recommend it, even Ford himself didn't like it. At its best it is an example of how Ford was mythologized from early on into a populist hero, and how he was viewed by the world circa 1915/17. It might be appropriate for some juvenile readers. Whatever the faults of Rose's book, the LibriVox reading by Lee Ann Howlitt is very well done and pleasant to listen to, I hope she continues reading more books at LibriVox!